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A great general who defeated soundly the enemy of the U.S. at the time, the British, in the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson became a president of strength and determination. He paved the way for American expansion, and was a supporter of states rights, supporting a smaller and limited federal government, although he did not support the right of states to nullify federal law. He was against banks being owned nationally. In light of the current problems in America, Jackson's support of a smaller national government seems wise as well as his position on national banks, which have great problems now as compared to privately owned ones.
The Indian Question is certainly an area that we today judge with universal condemnation. It is perhaps ironic that a president who did so much to shape the concept of democracy in terms of it being something that relates to everyone then showed how this was not true to riding roughshod over the Supreme Court and the Constitution. Whilst we can admire what he did in terms of shaping America, we can not overlook his glaring lack of application of what he preached to his own conduct.
I agree that Jackson redefined our democracy as being more about the individual than the privileged, elite few. The idea that America was a land of opportunity and that abundant land was the key to economic success really came into being during Jackson's presidency.
I disagree, along with the other posters, about his genocidal policy towards the American Indian, and his complete disregard for the Supreme Court and the Constitution when it came to that fact. While I understand that, in the context of the time, there was overwhelming social and political pressure for such a policy, and that Jackson was a product of a hateful, racist era with regards to minorities and Native Americans in general, the Trail of Tears is a stain on the nation's history, and I have a hard time seeing past it when it comes to Jackson's presidency.
The accomplishment of Jackson with which I must necessarily agree most was his determination to save the Union. This was exemplified when he issued the Nullification Proclamation in response to South Carolina's attempt to nullify the Tariff of 1828, commonly called the "Tariff of Abominations." In his proclamation, Jackson said that nullification was:
incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle for which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.
Famously, during the celebration of Thomas Jefferson's Birthday (now celebrated as "Jefferson-Jackson Day") he glared at John C. Calhoun, who had authored the policy of nullification and said "Our federal Union; it must be preserved." Jackson showed his willingness to use force to preserve the Union when he threatened to send troops to South Carolina to prevent dissolution. Jackson's singleminded determination postponed the dissolution of the Union for almost forty years; its dissolution in 1860 was over issues that Jackson was scarcely forced to address.
I disagree most with his treatment of the Indian Question. During Jackson's presidency, Congress repudiated 94 Indian treaties at his request. In 1838, over 12,000 Cherokee Indians departed on the "Trail of Tears," a forced march to Oklahoma when Jackson refused to enforce the Supreme Court's decision in Worcester vs. Georgia. He reportedly said, "Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it. Whether he said it or not, he did nothing to protect the rights of the Cherokee or enforce the decision. The Cherokee were treated cruelly by soldiers who accompanied them as well as by whites along the way, who pillaged and stole from them. Twelve thousand left on the journey; only 8,000 survived the journey. Many did not survive there, as they were not plains people, not accustomed to the hunting, etc; plus there were Indians already there who were not overjoyed to see them infringe on their hunting. Many Cherokee were wiped out by the ordeal. The treatment of the Indians is necessarily the blackest mark of an otherwise successful Presidency.
The parts of Jackson's presidency that I agree with are the parts in which he promoted democracy and in which he (at least in his mind) was fighting for the "common man." I am not sure if the things he did in this fight were the right thing, but I admire his motives. For example, I am not sure if destroying the Bank of the United States was good policy, but I approve of Jackson's desire to protect the common people from rich elites.
I can also support (with no reservations) Jackson's attitude towards the nullification crisis. I think that the idea of nullification is simply unsupportable. Because of this, I agree totally with Jackson's opposition to that doctrine.
I agree with Jackson least with regard to his treatment of non-white people. Jackson, for example, had a great deal to do with the shameful "removal" of the "Five Civilized Tribes" from the Southeast. I know this sort of thing was much more socially acceptable in those days, but I cannot really support the idea of throwing a group of people out of their homes and lands simply because of their ethnicity.
Jackson knew that if the elite banking system was allowed to progress, it would take over the control of the country. Although it would later come back and haunt us as a people (Federal Reserve Act, 1913) Jackson did his part for the Republic.
As for his treatment of Native Americans, abominable! To kick a people when they were down with the gift of genocide (smallpox blankets) was up there with the most dastardly tirants in history.
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